When Isaac and his wife Rebekah were unable to have children, Isaac prayed to the Lord, and the Lord heard his plea. While Rebekah awaited the birth of her twin sons, they struggled within her, and the Lord told her that two nations would come from her sons and that “the elder shall serve the younger.”
When the children were born, the elder was named Esau and the younger Jacob. Esau became a hunter; his brother “was a plain (perfect, whole, simple) man, dwelling in tents.” One day, when Esau came in from the field, he was so hungry that he was faint. To obtain food, he sold his birthright (special privileges of a firstborn son) to Jacob. For bread and a pottage (a thick soup) of lentils, Esau “despised his birthright.”
Isaac grew older, and one day he called Esau to him. He asked Esau to hunt for venison, then prepare for him the savory meat that he loved and bring it to him to eat. After he had eaten, Isaac planned to give Esau a blessing.
Rebekah heard Isaac’s words. Remembering the Lord’s words to her before her sons were born, she told Jacob to bring her two young goats. She made the savory meat Isaac loved, put some of Esau’s clothing on Jacob, and covered his hands with the goat skins because Esau was a hairy man. She sent her second son in to his father with instructions to tell him that he was Esau.
Jacob obeyed his mother. When Isaac, thinking it was Esau who came to him, asked his son how he had found the meat so quickly, the voice that answered was Jacob’s, not Esau’s. But when Isaac asked who he was, Jacob answered that he was Esau. His father felt the hair on Jacob’s hands and smelled Esau’s clothes on him, and “so he blessed him.”
When Esau returned with the venison, he, too, prepared the savory meat and went in to his father. Isaac quickly realized that he had given the birthright blessing to his second son, but he confirmed that it was right, saying, “Yea, and he shall be blessed.” Esau was so angry that he threatened to kill Jacob.
Isaac called Jacob to him and told him that he must go to Padan-aram, “to the house of Bethuel thy mother’s father.” Jacob went and labored for twenty years for Laban, his mother’s brother, married two of his daughters, and became a respected and well-to-do man in his own right. His prosperity caused the children of Laban to accuse him of cheating their father, and the day came when the Lord said to Jacob, “Return unto the land of thy fathers, and to thy kindred; and I will be with thee.”
Jacob gathered his family and his goods and journeyed back to his father’s home. Wanting to make peace with his brother, Jacob sent word that he was coming. When he heard that Esau was coming to meet him with four hundred men, Jacob prayed to the Lord for deliverance and protection. He then sent goats, ewes, rams, camels, kine (an ancient name for cows), bulls, asses, and foals as a peace offering to his brother.
When Jacob saw Esau approaching, he “bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother.
“And Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept.” Esau told Jacob that he didn’t need the offerings sent to him. “I have enough, my brother; keep that thou hast unto thyself.”
“And Jacob said, Nay, I pray thee, if now I have found grace in thy sight, then receive my present at my hand.” The brothers were reconciled, and peace was established between them.